March 25, 2009, - 3:02 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
If you’re keeping track–and I’ve lost track–so far we have banks, foreclosed mortgage holders, the porn industry, auto companies, brokerage firms, failed liberal mainstream media newspapers, and pretty much everyone else asking for a hand-out, many of ‘em getting one.
Now, it’s empty minor league sports stadiums owned by rich developers:
Take the case of Reno, Nev.’s proposed new entertainment district next to the city’s new minor-league baseball stadium. The stadium, near the Truckee River several blocks from the casinos on Reno’s Virginia Street, is set to open next month when the Reno Aces face off against the Salt Lake Bees.
But the swooning economy and frozen credit markets have prevented the stadium developers, a group called Nevada Land, from completing construction on even the first phase, which is planned to contain 40,000 square feet of restaurants and nightclub space.
So the developer has asked the city of Reno for help. The $50 million stadium was financed partly with about $30 million of county-issued bonds backed by a car-rental tax set up in 2003. Now Nevada Land is asking the city for at least $10 million in additional assistance, to help finance the entertainment district’s retail space, says Stuart Katzoff, the managing partner of Nevada Land.
The Reno city council, acting as the board of the city’s redevelopment agency, is scheduled to take a final vote on the request today. “It’s kind of like a little stimulus package,” says Reno Mayor Robert Cashell, who supports the measure. . . .
But some experts are skeptical of blindly financing projects just to get them done. “One thing we know about recessions … is local officials get very anxious to grow the economy and they will throw stupid money at deals,” says Jeffrey Finkle, president and chief executive of the International Economic Development Council. . . .
In Reno, the developer’s request for city help has drawn some fire. Reno City Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza says she has received many emails and phone calls from citizens concerned about providing additional money to developers during an economic downturn. Ms. Sferrazza says she supports the stadium and doesn’t like the vacant site next to the stadium, but she maintains that it isn’t prudent for the city to help out the developers any more than they already have. “I think it should be on the developer’s dime,” Ms. Sferrazza says.
But Ms. Sferrazza was the only dissenting vote when the city gave an earlier general approval to the subsidy request. Four other members voted for it, eager to transform an area of town that Mayor Cashell describes as a former slum, once home to a motel and a fire station. He says the additional financing assistance will help the developers deliver it in about a year. “It’ll really give life to an area that’s been down,” he says.
Good luck. If people are taxed to death, they won’t have any money to spend–especially in this economy–and it’ll be yet another slum, only with newer, chicer empty buildings.